SANA, Yemen — In a rare move for an Arab state where popular dissent worked to unseat a dictator, Yemenis went to polling stations yesterday to vote out President Ali Abdullah Saleh after more than a year of antigovernment protests and violent clashes in the street.
Though the election is hardly an exercise in democracy — the only candidate is Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi — it represents an important transitional moment for an impoverished nation mired in a conflict that has left its troubled economy in tatters and many people dead or wounded.
“We want change. We want a new president,’’ said a shopkeeper, Yahya al-Qadhi, just after he voted. “It’s fine that only Abed Rabbo is on the ballot. If there was more than one candidate, then they would start killing each other, and we are sick of the killing.’’
Supporters of the president said they were voting because the transition was commissioned by Saleh, while the opposition relished the formal opportunity to force Saleh out of office. The election may be the only thing the two sides have agreed on after a year of bitter rivalry.
Turnout in the capital, Sana, appeared to be high, with long lines outside polling stations in schools and outside mosques.